Facebook agrees to modify system to restore Napalm attack photo posted by Norwegian author

Aftenposten's editor in chief Espen Egil Hansen poses with the day's edition featuring the iconic picture from the Vietnam War. PHOTO: ERIC JOHANSEN/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
Aftenposten’s editor in chief Espen Egil Hansen poses with the day’s edition featuring the iconic picture from the Vietnam War. PHOTO: ERIC JOHANSEN/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Facebook says it will allow an iconic photograph of a girl fleeing a Napalm attack taken during the Vietnam war in 1972 to be used on its platform.

It had previously removed the image, posted by a Norwegian author, on the grounds that it contained nudity.

The move sparked a debate about Facebook’s role as an editor.
The editor of Norway’s largest newspaper had written an open letter to Facebook’s chief Mark Zuckerberg calling the ban “an abuse of power”.

The tech giant said it had “listened to the community” and acknowledged the “global importance” of the photo.

“Because of its status as an iconic image of historical importance, the value of permitting sharing outweighs the value of protecting the community by removal, so we have decided to reinstate the image on Facebook where we are aware it has been removed,” it said in a statement.

“It will take some time to adjust these systems but the photo should be available for sharing in the coming days.

“We are always looking to improve our policies to make sure they both promote free expression and keep our community safe.”

The Norwegian prime minister – who had earlier posted a copy of the photo on Facebook herself only to see it removed – welcomed the U-turn.

“That’s very good, I’m a happy prime minister,” Erna Solberg told BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight programme.

“It shows that using social media can make [a] political change even in social media.”

Tom Egeland, the author whose Facebook account had been suspended over the affair, also expressed his pleasure.
“Now I’m happy!” he tweeted.

“This does not alter at all the difficult issues that involve Facebook and the Norwegian media. But tonight I’m just happy.”

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